Dec 31, 2023; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) runs with the ball along the sidelines after making a catch against the New England Patriots during the second half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

NFL playoff scenarios: Dolphins, Bills, others control own destiny

The Miami Dolphins, the Buffalo Bills and three AFC South clubs are among the eight NFL teams who control their own playoff destinies in Week 18.

The Dolphins (11-5) will host the Bills (10-6) in the final game of the regular season Sunday night, with the winner clinching the AFC East title. The Dolphins would also get in with a tie, while the Bills still can wind up as the sixth or seventh seed in a few other scenarios, including a loss or tie by the Jacksonville Jaguars or Pittsburgh Steelers.

The three-team race in the AFC South features the Jaguars, Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts, all currently 9-7.

The Jaguars control their destiny to win the division title simply by beating the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon, but when the Texans visit the Colts on Saturday night, the winner will be guaranteed at least a playoff bid.

If Jacksonville loses to or ties with Tennessee, the Houston-Indianapolis winner will win the AFC South and the right to host a playoff game as the No. 4 seed.

In the NFC, the Dallas Cowboys (11-5) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8) are one win away from clinching the NFC East and South titles, respectively.

Dallas visits Washington on Sunday and can also secure the division banner if the Philadelphia Eagles (11-5) lose to the New York Giants. If the Eagles win and Dallas loses or ties — or if the Eagles tie and the Cowboys lose — then Philadelphia will lock up the NFC East crown despite a 1-4 December.

Tampa Bay visits the league-worst Carolina Panthers, and if the Buccaneers tie, they’d still fend off the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons for the NFC South crown if New Orleans loses to or ties with Atlanta.

The Saints (8-8) need to finish with a better record than the Buccaneers (8-8) to win the division, so they need a win and a Tampa Bay loss or tie, or a Saints tie plus a Bucs loss. The Falcons (7-9) can only win the division by beating the Saints and having the Buccaneers lose, forcing a three-way tie at 8-9 that Atlanta would win via tiebreaker.

There is also one NFC wild-card spot still up for grabs, and in that race, the Green Bay Packers (8-8) control their destiny. They have six clinching scenarios for Week 18, but the simplest one is to beat the visiting Chicago Bears.

Also in the chase are the Seattle Seahawks (8-8), the Minnesota Vikings (7-9), the Saints and the Buccaneers.

The Seahawks will grab the wild-card berth if they beat the Arizona Cardinals and Green Bay loses or ties. If Seattle happens to tie with Arizona, a Green Bay loss and a loss or tie by either Tampa Bay or New Orleans would also let the Seahawks sneak in.

The Vikings must beat the Detroit Lions and get losses from the Packers and Seahawks, plus a loss by either the Buccaneers or the Saints.

The biggest prizes of the regular season were decided in Week 17 when the Baltimore Ravens (13-3) and San Francisco 49ers (12-4) clinched the No. 1 seeds in the AFC and NFC, respectively.

The Ravens may choose to rest their players in Week 18 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh, at 9-7, still has a path to grab an AFC wild-card berth:
1. PIT win + BUF loss OR
2. PIT win + JAX loss or tie OR
3. PIT win + HOU-IND tie OR
4. PIT tie + JAX loss + HOU-IND doesn’t end in tie OR
5. JAX loss + DEN win + HOU-IND doesn’t end in tie

–Field Level Media

Dec 17, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, USA; San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) celebrates after the game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Week 16 playoff scenarios: 49ers can clinch top seed, bye

The San Francisco 49ers’ Christmas gift could be the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

The 49ers, the only 11-3 team in the NFC, have a straightforward path to clinching the top seed and a first-round bye in Week 16, according to the NFL’s official playoff scenarios.

If the Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles all lose, the 49ers would lock up the No. 1 seed on Christmas night by beating the visiting Baltimore Ravens — who happen to be the only other 11-3 team in the league.

Detroit visits the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas takes on the host Miami Dolphins on Sunday, Christmas Eve. Then, the Eagles play the middle game of a Christmas Day tripleheader against the visiting New York Giants before the Ravens visit San Francisco in the nightcap.

The Lions (10-4) would clinch the NFC North title with a win or tie against Minnesota. If that doesn’t happen, they can still lock up a playoff bid if either the Los Angeles Rams or the Seattle Seahawks lose or tie. The Rams host the New Orleans Saints on Thursday and the Seahawks visit the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

Over in the AFC, the Ravens — who have already punched their postseason ticket — can win the AFC North by beating the 49ers and having the Browns lose or tie against the Houston Texans, or if the Ravens tie and the Browns lose.

The Browns (9-5), for their part, have eight scenarios to clinch a playoff berth this week, all of which start with a win at Houston. The Browns are on the verge of their second playoff berth in 21 seasons.

If the Dolphins (10-4) beat the Cowboys and the Buffalo Bills lose or tie at the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday, Miami would clinch the AFC East title. That would also be the result if Miami ties Dallas and Buffalo loses.

The Christmas Day tripleheader begins with the struggling Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Las Vegas Raiders. The Chiefs (9-5) can lock up their eighth straight AFC West title if they beat Las Vegas, or if they tie with the Raiders and the Denver Broncos lose to New England.

–Field Level Media

Dec 24, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) rolls out to avoid the rush by Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick (7) during the second half at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Week 17 Playoff Scenarios: Can Cowboys catch Eagles?

The Dallas Cowboys rallied from a 10-point deficit to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles on Christmas Eve, but is there enough time left in the season for a change atop the NFC East standings?

Dallas (11-4) opens Week 17 at Tennessee (7-8) and if the Cowboys win out while the Eagles (13-2) drop home games to the New Orleans Saints and New York Giants with starting quarterback Jalen Hurts sidelined, the playoff pecking order would be turned on its head. The Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers remain in the hunt for the top seed in the conference.

Here’s a look at the playoff scenarios for all teams entering Week 17:

–NFC
Overall conference standings:
Team W L T
Eagles 13 2
Vikings 12 3
49ers 11 4
Buccaneers 7 8
Cowboys 11 4
Giants 8 6 1
Commanders 7 7 1
Seahawks 7 8
Lions 7 8
Packers 7 8
Panthers 6 9
Saints 6 9

Clinched playoff spot: Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers

Can clinch playoff spot in Week 17: New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Commanders

How the Giants get in: New York can clinch a wild-card spot by beating the Indianapolis Colts. There are multiple scenarios, some of them complex, in which the Giants can earn a playoff spot this weekend with a tie against the Colts.

How the Buccaneers get in: Tampa Bay is in with a victory over the Carolina Panthers this week. A loss puts the Panthers in the same position in Week 18.

How the Commanders get in: If the Commanders win, they can grab a wild-card spot with Week 17 losses by the Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions.

–AFC
Overall conference standings:
Team W L
Bills 12 3
Chiefs 12 3
Bengals11 4
Jaguars 7 8
Ravens 10 5
Chargers 9 6
Dolphins 8 7
Patriots 7 8
Jets 7 8
Titans 7 8
Steelers 7 8

Clinched playoff spot: Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers.

Can clinch playoff spot in Week 17: Miami Dolphins

How the Dolphins get in: Miami can crash the postseason with a win over the New England Patriots and a New York Jets’ loss to the Seahawks.

–Field Level Media

Dec 11, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23) is congratulated by fullback Kyle Juszczyk (44) after scoring a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the third quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Week 15: Chiefs, Vikings, 49ers can clinch divisions

Five teams can punch their ticket to the NFL postseason this week, including three that can clinch their division title — the Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers.

All the Chiefs, Vikings and Niners have to do is win to emerge as division champions. The 49ers (9-4) could be the first to do it, with a Thursday night game at NFC West rival Seattle. However, that’s the only scenario for them to clinch.

The Vikings (10-3), who host Indianapolis on Saturday, could win the NFC North even if they lose. A loss or tie by Detroit vs. the New York Jets would also suffice.

Ditto for the Chiefs (10-3), who play at Houston on Sunday. KC can still clinch the AFC West in the event of a loss, if the Los Angeles Chargers lose or both teams tie in Week 15.

The Buffalo Bills (10-3) can clinch a playoff berth with a win over visiting Miami on Saturday night. The Bills also get in if they tie the Dolphins and the Los Angeles Chargers lose.

Finally, the Dallas Cowboys (10-3) can also cement their spot in the postseason with a win at Jacksonville on Sunday. They can get in on four other scenarios as well if they fail to beat the Jaguars.

Just one team – Philadelphia – has clinched a spot in the postseason entering Week 15. The NFC East, however, remains up for grabs.

–Field Level Media

Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) and Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) meet on the field after the game at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Eagles, Vikings can clinch playoff spots this week

Clinching a spot in the playoffs is a realistic possibility for the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings entering Week 13.

The Eagles (10-1) and Vikings (9-2) play home games on Sunday with a shot at sealing a postseason bid with a month remaining in the regular season.

Philadelphia hosts the Tennessee Titans (7-4) and the Eagles are 4-0 this season against AFC teams. In addition to beating the Titans, the Eagles need a Washington Commanders loss to the New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks loss to the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers loss to the Miami Dolphins.

Clinching the NFC North is less complicated for the Vikings.

If Minnesota beats the New York Jets (7-4) and the Detroit Lions lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Vikings are division champions.

–Field Level Media

Jan 2, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley celebrates with Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) after a touchdown in the second half the game against the Denver Broncos at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Final three NFL playoff spots still up for grabs in Week 18

Five of the seven AFC playoff spots are secured, with five teams fighting for the final two conference tickets to the postseason in Week 18.

The Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Chargers, Las Vegas Raiders, Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers enter the final weekend of the debut 17-game regular season with a shot at the expanded playoffs. Seven teams in each conference will make this month’s postseason field in an NFL first.

Only one spot is open in the NFC with the Green Bay Packers locked into the No. 1 seed and lone first-round bye with a dominant victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night.

Home-field advantage remains uncertain in the AFC, but the Tennessee Titans (11-5) clinch the AFC’s No. 1 seed with a win at Houston (4-12), among other possibilities involving ties and losses by the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals.

Three teams — the Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals — are in the NFC field with three certain division champs: the Packers, Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Still alive for the seventh spot are the San Francisco 49ers (9-7, at Rams) and New Orleans Saints (8-8, at Atlanta).

The 49ers are in with a win, tie or Saints loss. New Orleans must win and pull for the Rams to beat the 49ers to sneak into the postseason.

If the Titans lose, the Bengals or Chiefs could steal the top seed in the AFC.

The Chiefs are the No. 1 in the conference with a win and Titans loss or tie. If the Chiefs tie, they’d still have a shot at the No. 1 seed if the Titans lose to the Texans.

Cincinnati (10-6) has a more complicated route to the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage, but the Bengals do have a chance. It would require losses by the Chiefs and Titans and a loss or tie by the New England Patriots in addition to a Bengals’ win.

New England (10-6) winning could throw the playoff picture for a loop. The Patriots would claim the No. 1 seed with a win, combined with losses from the Bills, Chiefs and Titans.

Sunday night in Las Vegas will determine the outlook of wild-card weekend. The Chargers (9-7) visit the Raiders (9-7) with the winner getting a playoff ticket.

The Colts (9-7) need to win or tie at the Jacksonville Jaguars to get in the easy way after losing to the Raiders last week. Because of tiered tiebreakers, the Colts could sneak in with a Chargers’ loss plus a tie in the Baltimore Ravens-Steelers game, or a Miami Dolphins win combined by losses by the Chargers and Steelers.

The Steelers (8-7-1) could earn a playoff spot if they win, the Colts lose, and the game between the Raiders and Chargers doesn’t end in a tie.

–Field Level Media

Jan 12, 2020; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers reacts against the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth quarter of a NFC Divisional Round playoff football game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Ten teams still vying for last 7 playoff spots

Heading into the final week of the NFL’s regular-season, half of the 14 playoff spots remain waiting to be pounced on.

Seven teams have punched their playoff tickets and 15 teams have been eliminated, which leaves 10 teams still wrestling for the remaining seven spots (two division titles, and five wild-card positions). Some, certainly, have a clearer path than others.

In the NFC, the Green Bay Packers (12-3, North), New Orleans Saints (11-4, South), and Seattle Seahawks (11-4, West) have clinched division titles, and the Packers can secure the NFC’s lone playoff bye with a victory over the Chicago Bears (8-7) on Sunday.

But if Green Bay falters the Saints can leapfrog them by beating the Carolina Panthers (5-10), and should both leaders lose, the Seahawks could vault past both by beating the San Francisco 49ers (6-9).

The Tampa Bay Bucs (10-5), meantime, are assured of one of the three wild-card spots.

The NFC East remains in control of the Washington Football Team (6-9), which merely needs to beat the Philadelphia Eagles (4-10-1) on Sunday. Should Washington lose, the winner of the Dallas Cowboys (6-9) vs. New York Giants (5-10) would take the division.

The NFC wild-card race, is down to three teams and two games: The Los Angeles Rams (9-6) face the Arizona Cardinals (8-7), with the winner reaching the playoffs, while the Chicago Bears (8-7) can advance by beating the Packers, or even if they lose the Bears advance if the Cardinals lose to the Rams.

The Rams make the playoffs by either winning OR the Bears losing.

In the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs (14-1) have clinched the West and the conference’s No. 1 seed, which means they get the lone AFC bye in this season’s extended playoff field of seven teams per conference.

The Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3, North) and Buffalo Bills (11-3, East) have clinched their division titles. In the AFC South, the Tennessee Titans can capture the division by winning or if the Indianapolis Colts lose; the Colts capture the division only if they win and the Titans lose.

With five teams (including the Titans and Colts) bunched at 10-5 heading into the weekend, there is room for only four of them in the playoffs.

Of those five teams, four of them can play their way into the AFC wildcard spots with a victory on Sunday: The Titans, Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, and Cleveland Browns. The Colts, however, need to win and get help with at least one of those other 10-5 teams losing or in some cases tying.

Here is the pecking order in the AFC Wildcard race:

The Browns need to beat Pittsburgh (12-3) OR a loss by the Colts OR a loss by the Titans plus wins for Miami and Baltimore.

The Titans need to beat the Texans (4-11) OR any loss by Baltimore, Indianapolis, or Miami.

The Ravens need to beat Cincinnati (4-10-1) OR a loss by Cleveland or Indianapolis.

The Dolphins need to beat the Bills (11-3) OR a loss by Ravens, Browns, or Colts.

The Colts need to beat the Jaguars (1-14) AND a loss by Titans, Ravens, Browns, or Dolphins.

–Field Level Media

Nov 15, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) reacts leaving the field after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 36-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers, Chiefs, Saints can clinch playoff berths in Week 13

The Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints head into Week 13 looking to punch their respective tickets to the postseason.

The undefeated Steelers (11-0) can clinch the AFC North title with a win over the visiting Washington Football Team (4-7) on Monday, as well as a bit of help.

The Steelers also would need the Cleveland Browns (8-3) to lose at the host Tennessee Titans (8-3) on Sunday. Pittsburgh would then clinch the division based on the strength of victory tiebreaker over the Browns.

The Steelers also can clinch a postseason berth this week without a Browns loss. They can do so with a win or tie, or a loss or tie by the Las Vegas Raiders (6-5), Miami Dolphins (7-4) or Indianapolis Colts (7-4). The Raiders visit the New York Jets (0-11) on Sunday, the Dolphins host the Cincinnati Bengals (2-8-1) and the Colts visit the Houston Texans (4-7).

Kansas City (10-1) can clinch the AFC West title with a home victory over the Denver Broncos (4-7) on Sunday and a loss by Las Vegas. A Chiefs’ tie and Raiders’ loss would also do the trick.

The Chiefs can seal a playoff berth with a victory over the Broncos or any of the following:

–KC tie, plus a loss or tie by the Baltimore Ravens (6-5) to the Dallas Cowboys (3-8) on Tuesday and IND loss
–KC tie, plus LV tie and BAL loss or tie and IND tie
–KC tie, plus LV tie and MIA loss and IND loss or tie
–KC tie, plus LV tie and MIA loss and BAL loss or tie
–KC tie, plus MIA loss and BAL loss or tie and IND tie
–LV loss, plus BAL loss and IND loss

New Orleans (9-2) can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the host Atlanta Falcons (4-7) on Sunday, as well as a loss or tie by the Chicago Bears (5-6) versus the visiting Detroit Lions (4-7).

The Saints also can clinch under the following scenarios:

–NO tie plus CHI loss and a loss by the Minnesota Vikings (5-6) to the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10) and a loss or tie by the San Francisco 49ers (5-6) to the Buffalo Bills (8-3) on Monday
–NO tie plus CHI loss and MIN loss and a loss or tie by the Arizona Cardinals (6-5) to the visiting Los Angeles Rams (7-4)

–Field Level Media